Recommended Daily Calorie Intake:
How Many Calories Are Needed Per Day

Your recommended daily calorie intake is the number of calories needed per day. Even when you are dieting, you need a minimum number of calories per day. You also need a minimum amount of calories to maintain weight.

For Dieters

Nutritionists generally recommend at least 1200 calories per day even when you are dieting.

There are side effects to undereating even if you are overweight. Basically, your body can only burn fat at a certain rate, and that rate is not high enough to provide all your calories for the day. Thus, even if you have plenty of fat to burn, your body will have to burn muscle as well unless you give it some food calories to supplement the fat-burning.

It is very unlikely that you are dieting to lose muscle. Thus, eating your recommended daily calorie intake for dieters, 1200 calories per day, will not get in the way of your goal of losing fat. You will still lose fat as quickly as you would if you ate nothing. You just won't lose muscle with it.

For Everyone (Maintaining Weight)

The recommended daily calorie intake for those seeking to maintain weight varies.

It will vary based on your weight, your general metabolism, and your activity level.

The effect of your metabolism is highly overrated, in my opinion, because it is so misunderstood.

Think of someone you know with a high metabolism. Aren't you now thinking of someone full of energy—who moves a lot?

Exercise raises your metabolism because it gives you the energy level to move more. When you move more, you burn more calories.

Metabolism is tied to movement. Don't envy the person with the high metabolism. Be one! Exercise to increase your energy, and then get up off the couch and do things!

A formula that I've found to work very well when I've helped people diet—it makes our calorie counting accurately predict their weight loss are weight maintenance—is the following:


Right now I weight 190 pounds (and decreasing by following the diet tips on this web site!), so my calorie burn per day is 190 x 10 + 1000, which equals 2900.

To that I have to add the exercise you do. You can use an exercise calorie counter, but here's an excellent shortcut:

  • Walking or running: 100 calories per mile
  • Light exercise, including extensive housework or a labor job: 50 calories per 10 minutes, 300 calories per hour
  • Difficult exercise, like pushups, weightlifting, or wrestling: 20 calories per minute (don't count rest between sets)

The total that you come up with will represent your recommended daily calorie intake for maintaining weight.

For me, I have an office job, and I'm doing enough exercise to add on 200 to 300 calories per day. Thus, I add the 2900 calorie per day I use to stay alive to the 200 (for example) calories I burned that day, and I need to eat about 3100 calories per day to maintain weight.

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